Just a few hours from Williamsport, PA., the Mariners fell victim to a play rarely seen on the Little League diamond in a 4-3 loss to the Phillies Wednesday in Philadelphia that cost them a series win.Most Little Leaguers are taught never to throw a bat. Big-leaguer Chase Utley showed that tossing a bat at a pitch is an acceptable form of offense, delighting 25,157 at Citizens Bank Park. With the game tied 3-3 in the fourth inning, Utley let go of his bat, flinging it at a breaking ball low and away from starter James Paxton.
Connection was made and the ball landed softly beyond the reach of Robinson Cano into right field. The hit scored Jimmy Rollins from third, providing the Phillies with the winning run.
Seattle (68-58) dropped the rubber game of the three-game series, losing its first series in its last five. The loss also dropped Seattle a half-game behind the Tigers for the American League’s second wild card with the Tigers scheduled to play later in the day.
The matinee was an odd affair from the beginning. Paxton struggled with his command for a second start in a row. The 25-year-old rookie was unable to land his curveball for a strike, and backup catcher Jesus Sucre had a tough time blocking pitches in the dirt.
Despite throwing 61 pitches to get through three laborious innings, Paxton kept the Mariners in a 1-1 game. A second-inning solo home run by Kendrys Morales accounted for the Mariners’ run.
Additional support came in the fourth inning. A walk and an infield single put Kyle Seager and Chris Denorfia on base for Logan Morrison, who came in with a history of success against Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels.
Morrison improved on his .316 (6-for-19) average against the veteran left-hander with an RBI double to put the M’s up 2-1. It was Morrison’s second hit of the game and improved his average to .381 against Hamels. The M’s added another run when Morrison scored on a wild pitch from Hamels with two outs. The run made up for an earlier blunder, in which Chris Denorfia was tagged out in a rundown from third after Sucre failed to pick up the signal for a suicide squeeze and took the pitch.
Command issues caught up to Paxton (3-1, 2.20 ERA) in the bottom of the inning, particularly after he committed a throwing error to first, giving the Phillies runners at second and third with no outs.
After striking out Hamels, Paxton induced a ground out from Ben Revere. Rollins kept the inning going, however, with an infield single. He advanced to second when Sucre couldn’t locate a breaking ball in the dirt. Which led to Utley’s game-winning bat throw.
The loss was the first of Paxton’s career. Through the first nine starts, Paxton posted a 6-0 record and 1.88 ERA, best in Mariners history. Paxton allowed four runs, only one earned due to his throwing error, on seven hits and two walks in four innings. Paxton struck out five on 88 pitches.
Seattle had opportunities, but Hamels and the Phillies pen wriggled free of jams in the fifth, sixth and eighth innings.
Hamels improved to 7-6 and a 2.53 ERA with the win. He gave up three runs on nine hits and one walk over five innings.
In another steppingstone toward a meaningful Setember, the Mariners have permission from MLB to begin selling tickets for possible postseason games. Season-ticket holders get priority for the initial sales and can purchase full or partial strips of tickets, depending on their plan. Those who make a $500 deposit toward 2015 season tickets will also get priority. Deadline is Sept. 22. Plans for sale of single-game postseason tickets will be announced later . . . Seattle dropped to 24-17 in day games . . . After going 13 consecutive games without allowing more than three runs to an opponent, Seattle’s staff has done so in three of its last five games.